With so many historic and stunning sights,
you really ought to take it one day at a time.


With so many historic and stunning sights,
you really ought to take it one day at a time.
By Laura Jenkins

When visiting a new city, it’s easy to try to pack in as many landmarks and experiences as possible. But there are certain destinations that are better experienced when sampled. Savored. Relished. Charleston is definitely one of these. Statistically, the Holy City tends to be a place which visitors return to time and again. So, slow down and soak up the sights at a leisurely pace. Consider this thematic three-day itinerary.

Day One:

Back In Time

A visit to Charleston isn’t complete without diving into the culture, architecture and rich history that the city has to offer. Bulldog Tours provides an incredible array of excursions, appealing to a wide variety of interests. There are daily walking tours that focus on the city’s history. They also offer pub tours, culinary tours, jail tours and even eerie ghost tours. Several companies offer horse- or mule-drawn carriage rides, which wind through the streets at a pleasant pace.

You can also plan your own walking tour of this historic city, using your personal interests as a guide.

One of the most fascinating aspects of Charleston is the number of historic churches located in a dense area, all of which have contributed to the city significantly. Perhaps the most breathtaking structures is St. Michael’s Episcopal Church, the oldest surviving religious structure in a city that boasts more than 400 places of worship. That includes the second oldest synagogue building in the United States, Kahal Kadosh Beth Elohim, and the French Huguenot Church, the oldest Gothic Revival church in all of South Carolina.

One reason Charleston has been so successful at safeguarding the city’s character is because it has some of the strictest preservation laws in the country. In 1931, Charleston adopted the first preservation-zoning ordinance in the United States. Those regulations continue to protect the exquisite architecture and picturesque settings for which the city is renowned.

East Bay Street is home to Charleston’s famed Rainbow Row. Built between 1730-40, the area developed because of the shipping industry. At one point more than 200 ships a day were loaded and unloaded in Charleston harbor. After the Civil War, the area fell into disrepair. It was mostly left to vandals and criminals until the early 20th century, when Judge Lionel K. Legge and his wife Dorothy Porcher Legge bought and renovated several of the buildings there. A number of stories circulate about how the structures got their varying hues, but regardless of their origins the neighborhood has become a Charleston landmark.

Day Two:

City Life

Charleston boasts some of the country’s most popular shopping, arts and dining districts, and they’re all within blocks of each other. If you just want to drop yourself in the thick of it, head to the concentration of galleries on Broad Street. These and the galleries found a couple of blocks away on East Bay Street make up the Gallery District, where you can find, admire and invest in local, regional and national artists working in a variety of styles and media.

Another cluster of art galleries are just a block away on King Street, which is commonly divided into three sections. Lower King, between Broad and Market streets, is home to locally owned clothing boutiques and celebrated antique shops. Middle King, between Market and Calhoun streets, is known as the Fashion District. There you’ll find a mix of national apparel and accessory stores, including fine jewelry and gifts, plus some local retailers. Upper King, between Calhoun and Spring street, is known for its design and décor shops, eclectic boutiques, and numerous restaurants and bars.

Charleston has a vibrant arts scene, with its robust culture of architectural preservation, well-organized gallery district, deep musical roots, world-renowned cultural festivals like Spoleto USA, and a theater scene that can lay claim to America’s first theater: the Dock Street Theatre. No matter what time of year you visit, you can immerse yourself in the city’s distinct culture or check out something completely unexpected. The Charleston Gaillard Center has a full schedule of shows all year.

Day Three:

Day Three: Nature

Whether you prefer being indoors or out, there are plenty of ways to experience the natural resources that make Charleston unique. A visit to the state-of-the-art South Carolina Aquarium, located downtown on the harbor, provides hours of entertainment and education. Though the word “aquarium” conjures visions of ocean life, there you are also informed about the native plants and animals that call South Carolina home.

If you’re looking for a more active experience, Charleston County Parks offers a wide network of facilities, events and programs to help you become better acquainted with the area. Fishing is a popular pastime at multiple parks, where you can rent rods, participate in tournaments or simply set off for a day of fishing from one of the 19 boat landings the parks system maintains. You can always cast your rod off the Folly Beach Pier, the second longest pier on the east coast. But if that isn’t your thing, you can always take a stroll, admiring the loons, grebes, terns, sea ducks and other wildlife attracted to the area. Several restaurants are located nearby, too.

Beyond the natural draws, the parks system also has other places of interest, including SK8 Charleston, a 32,000-square-foot skate park; several cutting-edge water parks; an archery range; and an equestrian center. With most attractions reasonably priced, it’s hard to beat the value and wide-ranging beauty of the city’s park system.